Why did Rick Carlisle return to Pacers? Roster, familiarity — and the money helps, too

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Rick Carlisle is the head coach of the Pacers … again.

The championship-winning coach who recently parted ways with the Dallas Mavericks has reportedly signed a four-year, $29 million pact to return to Indiana’s bench, per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.

Carlisle signing this quickly with a team was a mild surprise, signing with the Pacers even moreso. While the Pacers parted ways with head coach Nate Bjorkgren soon after the final whistle blew on Indiana’s season, no real reports suggested Carlisle’s candidacy before news of his hiring broke on Thursday.

Here’s what we know about the hiring:

Why did the Pacers hire Rick Carlisle?

While the money certainly helps — the deal keeps Carlisle in the top 10 highest paid coaches in the Association — familiarity helped play into the decision, as well. Carlisle has two prior tenures in Indiana; First, between 1997 and 2000, when he was an assistant coach under Larry Bird. The second stint was as the team’s head coach between 2003 and 2007.

During his tenure, Carlisle helped guide Indiana to a central-division crown in 2003, and in four total seasons, the Pacers made the playoffs three times and the Eastern Conference finals once (2003).

Carlisle figured to be the hottest coaching commodity on the market for any number of teams looking for a new head coach, but the Pacers acted “quietly and quickly” to get Carlisle in their building, per Adrian Wojnarowski, putting off several other interviews to bring him and ink him to a deal.

The landing spot was attractive to Carlisle, as well: Speaking with ESPN’s MacMahon, Carlisle liked the roster built by GM Kevin Pritchard and what they could be moving forward.

“It’s a team of skilled, unselfish guys that play hard,” Carlisle said to MacMahon. “It’s always possible that moves could be made before the season, but I think [GM Kevin Pritchard] and I are both very excited about getting the roster healthy and seeing what this team can be.”

Carlisle and the Mavericks agreed to part ways on June 17 after another early-playoff exit, losing in seven games to the Clippers. Carlisle spent 13 years patrolling the bench for Dallas, winning an NBA championship in 2011. In all, Dallas made it to the playoffs nine times under Carlisle, losing in the first round in seven of those trips.

Multiple reports indicated organizational turmoil within Dallas’ front office, though owner Mark Cuban vehemently denied the rumors. The Athletic detailed the dysfunction in June. 

 

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